Cannabis is consumed in three major ways: smoking, ingesting, and vaping. But what is vaping exactly? How does one do it? What products and equipment are involved, and is it safe? Sit down, relax, grab your favorite beverage (or cannabis pre-roll), and let HighHello give you the skinny on all things vaping.
Vaping is precisely what it sounds like, inhaling the vapor from heated cannabis. Cigarette smokers are switching from smoking tobacco to vaping nicotine. Cannabis smokers now have the option to vape cannabis instead of lighting up.
Most people choose to smoke their cannabis because it gets into the bloodstream quicker than ingesting an edible. But inhaling vapor is not much different. The effects are immediate, peaking at around 15 minutes and usually lasting for 45 minutes to an hour.
Cannabis flower, as well as extracted oil, can be vaporized with products called, you guessed it, vaporizers.
Something that draws people to vaping is that it is healthier than smoking. Not everyone’s lungs can handle the high heat and other byproducts of inhaling marijuana smoke. Vaping is a welcome alternative.
So, what’s a vaporizer?
A vaporizer is a device that heats the dried buds of the cannabis plant or cannabis oil to a temperature that then turns the cannabinoids and terpenes into vapor. One of the drawbacks of smoking (combusting) cannabis is that it can kill off some of the terpenes and lesser know (but essential) cannabinoids. Not so with vaping. With vaping, more of the plant is protected and delivered to the body. This is directly related to the lower temperatures needed to vaporize the oil or flower.
Cannabis is vaporized in three different ways.
- Tabletop vaporizers
- Portable vaporizers
- Vaporizing pens
Tabletop Vaporizers: These nifty devices are temperature-controlled units that sit on a surface (table). These are a bit bulkier than the other two options. They are comprised of a temp dial, a heating element, and a chamber to put your dried flower into. If compatible, concentrates can be used as well. It also has a mouthpiece from which to inhale the vapor.
The pros of tabletop vaporizers:
- Exact temperature control
- Flexibility: use flowers or concentrate
The cons of tabletop vaporizers:
- Not always easy to transport
- Learning curve
- Can be pricey
Portable Vaporizers: These vaporizers operate the same way tabletop vaporizers work. But, well, they are smaller and, as the name says, portable. There is a chamber to place your dried flower, a battery, a heating element, a mouthpiece, and a temperature gauge. Choosing your temperature, usually low, medium, or high, turns the battery on and heats the flower or concentrate to be vaped through the mouthpiece.
These devices are easy to carry around, are discreet, and emit far less cannabis aroma than smoking. They can be used to vape dried cannabis flower and a range of concentrates, including budder, badder, wax, and shatter.
Before purchasing your portable vaporizer, consider what you will be vaping. Not all vapes are created alike. Some may only have a dried flower capability. Others might be designed explicitly for vaping wax and other concentrates.
Pros of Portable vaporizers
- Probably, of course.
- Options for cannabis use
- Minimal packaging
Cons of portable vaporizers
- Not as strong or durable as the tabletop version
Vaporizing Pens: I am sure you have heard the term weed or vape pen. These are small, pen-like devices specifically for vaping distillates and oils.
These portable, discreet devices come with a battery and a cannabis cartridge. The cartridge is what holds the oil and will need to be replaced when the oil runs out. Vape pens can come with either rechargeable batteries or disposable ones.
You will find a mouthpiece, chamber, and heating element on the cartridge. A button or inhaling presses the battery, and the oil is heated and inhaled through the mouthpiece. Pretty cool, huh?
Pros of vape pens
- Super easy to use
Cons of vape pens
- Mostly disposable (boo hiss)
- Only used for distillates or oils
- Limiting in strain and concentrate selections
- could be expensive if vaping often.
Now, let’s talk safety
We all know smoking is bad for your health. And while smoking cannabis is a shade better than tobacco, it also holds risks. When you take a flame to flower, it heats to combustion. This heat and the smoke released contains harmful tar and carcinogens.
While it is undeniable that more research into the long-term effects of vaping is needed, the studies are promising. In fact, Harm Reduction Journal published a study in 2007 showing that vaping cannabis decreased unpleasant respiratory symptoms in people who smoke. The conclusion was that the vaporizing temperature was low enough to inhibit combustion toxins from entering the lungs. Now that is good news.
And sadly, there has been some bad news on the vaping safety front. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was alarmed in 2019 when they connected an increase in lung injuries with illegal vape usage. The cause, however, did not look like vaping or the cannabis itself, but the additives added to the oil, such as vitamin E, flavors, and other poor-quality manufacturing practices.
To ensure your safety, only buy cannabis products from a licensed retailer. Speak to your budtender or your doctor about choosing to vape and any health condition you might have.
What about dab pens?
While vape pens are used to vaporize cannabis oil, dab pens are designed to be used with solid-form concentrates. They have similar components to a vape pen, such as a battery, heating element, and mouthpiece, with one exception. The concentrate (wax, shatter, budder, badder, etc.) is put into a chamber which is then heated by the battery and heating element and inhaled through the mouthpiece.
Dab pens’ big advantage is that they do not depend on a cartrige. Load your concentrate and vape away.
Are vape pens expensive?
Cost is undoubtedly a “that depends” answer. The cost of a vape pen depends on the pen’s quality and the cartridge’s price. Most pens, including rechargeable ones, are reasonably affordable. Then there are the disposable, pre-loaded pens, which may be more variable in price due to the contents (cannabis) and where it is sold.
Vape cartridge contents
Knowing what is in your vape cartridge is essential to a successful and safe vaping experience. What strain of cannabis is it? How was it made or distilled? Are there any added flavors? Ask your HighHello budtender for the cartridges in your HighHello box details.
The making of cannabis oil that fills the vape cartridge is interesting. Distillation strips the cannabis oil from all flavor and aromatics, so terpenes (the part of the plant that gives it its flavor and aroma) are added back into the oil. It is then infused with glycol, providing the vapor with its mouthfeel. This oil determines whether it feels dry, buttery, thick, or smooth.
Vape cartridges that are legal and lab-tested all contain cannabinoids. But only some cartridges have those added terpenes, which give the plant its signature aromas and flavors. A raw cartridge is a vape cartridge that only contains pure cannabis oil—no additives, terpenes, or cutting agents.
More commonly, cartridges are filled with naturally occurring terpenes that can smell like candy or fruits. This ability to distill the terpenes, isolate the cannabinoids, then re-integrate them back into the oil gives cannabis manufacturers a lot of creativity. There are numerous cannabinoid and terpene combinations that can be made for the desired effect and flavorful experience.
Sometimes, THC vape juice includes cutting agents like those used in e-cigarettes. These additives can improve the vape cloud production and the experience the user has in their mouth. PEG, PG, and VG are common cutting agents.
These agents have been labeled safe for human ingestion by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) But let the vaper beware. Research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has shown that inhaling PG could irritate the lungs in people with asthma. Other research suggests that PEG and PG break down into the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde when vaporized at higher temperatures.
While more research is required to fully understand the effects of inhaling these cutting agents, you’re best off avoiding them and shopping for raw vape cartridges.
Speak to a professional about vaping and what is right for you.
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